Street light debate councillor says education would stop fear of dark

Sodium yellow glow from one of very few street lights in the Norfolk village of Hempnall; Photo: Bil

A call for street lights which had been turned off for part of the night to be switched back on was dismissed. - Credit: Archant © 2010

A county councillor has said people need to be taught not to be scared of the dark - as a call to turn more Norfolk street lights back on was dismissed.

The disappearance and killing of 33-year-old Londoner Sarah Everard last month prompted many women to express their concerns over not feeling safe on streets after dark.

sarah everard

Sarah Everard. - Credit: Metropolitan Police

The decision to switch off some 27,000 street lights across Norfolk between midnight and 5am was agreed by Norfolk County Council in 2010.

But, at a meeting of the council on Monday, Labour put forward a motion to reverse it.

The motion called for leader Andrew Proctor to be able to use delegated powers to restore full night lighting in areas where it had been restricted.

Steve Morphew, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Labour leader Steve Morphew, who proposed the motion, said: "What has become most apparent in recent weeks is how so many of us men have failed to appreciate and recognise the fear experienced by women of violence from men.

"Like many men, I was both shocked by the sheer number of reports and shocked by the fact that I hadn’t realised before."

But the motion was lost. Martin Wilby, the Conservative cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: "We have a clear policy of working with the police and only having part-night lighting in areas with a low crime rate."

Greg Peck, Conservative candidate for Reepham. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Greg Peck, Norfolk county councillor. - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

And Conservative councillor Greg Peck said people needed to be educated that the dark was not something to be afraid of.

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He said: "There is absolutely no evidence turning off the lights increases crime of any description.

"I think it was Leeds University that started a study because a young lady was attacked in a car park and so they were worried it was attracting crime.

"In actual fact, it showed the opposite - that lighting places up actually attracts crime, because the attacker can see their victim.

"If the lights are off, they can't, so they're not quite sure whether they are approaching a young lady or a 6ft 6in rugby player.

"I think, maybe, there needs to be more education to people not to fear the dark, as it is not an unsafe place."

Labour's Mike Smith-Clare said he was "quite aghast" at those comments and he knew of a shift worker not able to take a job because of her fears.